Business is all about relationships. It’s how well you build them determines how well they build your business. Building business is hard as hell and keeping it successful is even harder.
Choose co-founders the way you would choose a spouse. The reality is that you will, at least in the early days , spend far more time with your co-founder than your partner.
One of the biggest causes of startup deaths is co-founders not getting along with each other, arguing, drifting apart and ultimately splitting up. 62% percent of all startups fail due to co-founder conflict.
When you throw together two ambitious people from different backgrounds and have them live and work in close quarters under the pressure of having little money and the constant fear of their startup failing – conflicts are bound to happen.
That’s why the quality of the relationship among co-founders is one of the most important elements of successful startups.
Mess with human relations and they let you down. Human relationships need maintenance. They won’t stay functional and happy without putting work into them. To maintain healthy and productive relationships with your founding team, here’s what to do.
1. Spend quality time with your co-founders
A co-founder relationship is a relationship like any other, and dedicating focused time paves the way for great collaboration. In the beginning, cofounders spent most of their days together. At least once a week, plan to eat lunch together. Forming habits early would be important, and as they grew and scaled the business, these habits would stay with them forever. Get dinner, carpool together, or attend a non-work-related event. When you look at your colleagues as valuable people in your life, you open the door to the best types of working relationships you have.
2. Diversity and building trust among each other
It used to be taboo to talk too much about your personal life at work, but we live in a day and age when personal and work lives are fused together. Form a real friendship. Meet each others’ families. Healthy co-founder relationships begin with empathy, and sharing things about meaningful areas of your life forge a path for trust and respect.
Having a diverse co-founder team is a good thing, but it could also be a potential source of friction unless you learn to accept each other the way you are. Ultimately what you’ll learn is that you’re much better together than you are apart. At the end of the day, that’s what not only makes the relationships work, but also what makes the business work.
3. Stay focused on the solution.
When you disagree on an issue or on a decision, take it for what it is: for the benefits of company and not personally . Disagreement is natural and debate is good. If you do catch yourself taking something personally, let the other person know what’s bothering you and discuss an action-oriented solution. It seems simple enough, but reacting emotionally versus objectively can be an easy trap to fall into. Collaborate on concrete solutions, and be done with it.
4. Divide your roles but work together.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” advises an old African proverb. While the African proverb implies that “going further” is better than quicker, most startups need to do both. As a startup, you’re limited in funds, and with every opportunity in the marketplace that crops up, you see other entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of it sooner than you. Often, co-founders split a list of responsibilities, spending little time in each others’ worlds. The balance of hands-on and hands-off parallel management helps us build respect for one another’s skills. Working together allows us to work apart.
Many entrepreneurs who want to create a startup look for potential co-founders at various founder dating sites and events. But starting a company with someone you don’t know is like getting married to a person you met in a bar last night. Co-founders are not just colleagues; they’re partners who share decisions, a future, potential risks and rewards. So, friend or no, if you have a co-founder, make sure that you build a solid base before jumping in.